Lonnie Graham – a.k.a. "The Lone Ranger" and a member of Northeastern A&M's first Athletic Hall of Fame class – died Tuesday, Aug. 21. Graham, who earned all-American honors at NEO in 1953, resided in Sutter, Calif. He was 79.
Graham was a graduate of Broken Arrow High School, where he earned high school all-American honors. He attended NEO, where he acquired his nickname due to mask-like goggles he wore during games.
Graham averaged 14.3 yards per carry in football.
He then went on to play at Texas Tech in 1955-56. The Red Raiders won the Gator Bowl in 1954 and played in the 1956 Sun Bowl.
"I thought Lonnie Graham was the real deal," said former Norse head coach Chuck Bowman, who is on the hall of fame selection committee. "I spoke with him at the team reunion and could see the fire still burning. He may have set the pattern for what a Norsemen now stands for. Losing was not in his vocabulary and the will to win was most visible in his voice and demeanor.
"I would have loved to have had him and Doug Mathews in the same backfield. Talk about a Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside. These two would have driven teams crazy."
Edie Ingram got to know Graham when she was director of the NEO Development Foundation.
"Lonnie is a hero in my eyes not because of his great athletic ability which he definitely had, not even because of his successful life. Lonnie is my hero because he knew how to make others around him feel special," Ingram, now Children's Miracle Network Hospitals program manager in Joplin, said in a letter to the Graham family. "I was in the presence of greatness when Lonnie was around, yet the humility he displayed was remarkable. My life has forever been changed because of my friend Lonnie Graham."
Ingram first heard of Graham in 1991, when he was honored during a game pitting the Norsemen against Bakersfield, Calif.
"I would have never guessed in a million years that about 20 years later he would show up again in my office at NEO A&M College," Ingram said. "I don't believe I have ever met someone who had such an uplifting personality and an obvious love for people around him. He made me feel as if I had known him for years."
Graham was former president of the Sutter Lions Club, member of the Sutter High chain gang, Bobby Sox’s Softball and many other local organizations and charities.
Survivors include his wife Jody Graham; and children Jayedene Chesini (Jim), Tammy Graham (Kirk), Patrick Graham, and Lonnell Gaither; grandchildren Dan Chesini (Jenni), Nina Sinor (Eric), James Chesini, Roxanne Miles (Greg), Jolene Graham, Naomi Graham (Craig), Hunter Graham (Sarah) and Malachi Graham; great Graham (Craig), Hunter Graham (Sarah) and Malachi Graham; great grandchildren: Ayden and Annika Miles, and Lyric Graham; siblings: Magene Quirk, Freddy
Graham, Ernie Phillips and brother-in-law John Redman.
Services were Monday morning at the Sutter Cemetery.
The Lonnie Graham Memorial Fund has been established at the Sutter Community Bank.